What are the differences between a modem and a router? [Tip]

You may have noticed that when you sign up for a broadband connection from a internet service provider, they offer you a combination modem and a router. Have you ever wondered what the difference between a modem and a router is? By knowing the difference, you can buy your own modem or router from various online shopping sites that offer special discounts without seeking the help of your internet provider who is normally too busy to respond to your service requests and queries.

Difference Between a Modem and a Router

A modem and a router perform different tasks for your computer and internet, and you will probably need to buy both separately for your home or office use if you decide not to use the one provided by your internet service provider. Let’s first look what a router is and then we can discuss about a modem.

What a Router Does

A router is a device that shares your internet connection with various devices that are present in your home or office. A router is a device that sends wireless signals that establishes a Wi-Fi network so that Wi-Fi capable devices can connect to it and use the internet. A router can also have multiple Ethernet ports so that you can connect multiple devices directly to a router.

A router is connected to a modem and receives a single IP address from the modem. All other devices connect to your router and it is the router that provides internet to the devices. But, without a modem you cannot connect a router. The router is plugged into the modem over an Ethernet cable through which is receives the internet signal.

Role of a Modem

The modem is the device that communicates with the internet service provider (ISP). You can have two types of modems – a cable modem that plugs into the infrastructure provided by the cable operator, or a DSL modem that is connected via telephone lines. You need the correct type of modem so that it can communicate with your internet service provider.

After you have successfully connected your modem with the internet service provider and established a connection either through a cable modem or DSL modem, you can now use an Ethernet cable to plug into your router so that all the devices in your home or office can get internet via the Wi-Fi connection.

Therefore, a modem and a router are two separate devices that perform different functions. For a router to function, it needs the help of a modem. You don’t have to have both if you don’t have any other devices that use the internet, you can do without the router.

Can I Get a Modem and a Router Combined into One Single Device?

Most internet service providers supply a single device that contains both a modem and a router. Those devices are designed so that they can perform the role both and can establish a Wi-Fi connection and having the same devices makes it easier for them to troubleshoot because they are familiar with the hardware. However, not all companies do this and you can purchase a separate router just for the Wi-Fi, or there are also combination devices available.


Both a modem and a router are important if you need to successfully create a Wi-Fi connection. Today, you can see internet providers supplying modem and a router separately when sign up with them.

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